There's another launch company newly able to count itself among the small (but growing) group that has reached orbit: Astra. The Alameda-based rocket startup notched that achievement late Friday night, taking off from its launch site in Kodiak, Alaska shortly after 9 PM local time (1 AM ET).
This was Astra's 'LV0007' mission, the follow-up to its last try in August, which was ended short of reaching orbit after the rocket got off to a rocky start with a brief hover and sideways strafe movement just after liftoff. Astra then investigated the cause of the misfire (an early engine shutdown) before initially setting the LV0007 launch for the end of October. That was shifted due to weather.
This new launch and Astra's first successful flight to orbit comes just under a year after the company reached space with its Rocket 3.2 test launch, during a mission which surprised everyone, including Astra's own team, with how close it came to achieving orbit.
Astra just reached orbit! 7.61km/sec at our targeted 86.0 degree inclination at an altitude of 500km. The team worked hard for this. We’re just getting started, folks. #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/NiMhCEsuCI
— Chris Kemp (@Kemp) November 20, 2021
Astra's approach to the launch industry fits a niche that isn't yet satisfied, with a rapid turnaround and high-volume approach to manufacturing that it claims will be able to produce small payload rockets at prices that make it possible for even more companies to get their cargo to space on dedicated missions, rather than relying on rideshare models on larger vehicles like SpaceX's Falcon 9, or paying a relatively high price for something like Rocket Lab's Electron.
Astra's Benjamin Lyon, the company's Chief Engineer, will be joining us at TC Sessions: Space this year, and we'll be sure to talk about this milestone win.